Arsene Wenger was given a standing ovation at the Arsenal AGM yesterday to mark his 60th birthday and responded by telling the club's shareholders that the team would win a trophy this season. The Arsenal manager also said he would not allow money to be "pumped" into the club and risk losing its values.
Wenger did not specify exactly which trophy he believed his team would win as he spoke in front of the club's largest shareholder, Stan Kroenke who, with a 28.86 per cent stake in the club, is only about 640 shares away from being obliged to make an offer for the entire shareholding. When Kroenke was questioned as to his intentions towards the club, he responded only by smiling and refusing to talk.
The American sports tycoon owns a number of franchises in his own country including the Denver Nuggets in the NBA and the Colorado Rapids in Major League Baseball. Yesterday at the Emirates, Kroenke lived up to his enigmatic reputation and his nickname of "Silent Stan".
Wenger said that when Arsenal supporters came to reflect on last season they would recognise that it was "not such a bad season", but it was next May that he said his team would deliver. "I know that we haven't won a trophy for four years but we were very close and I believe that this year the team will do it," Wenger said.
"When I say that it is not to please you, it is because I am really convinced of it. I believe that we the fans who turn up at the gate know we will go for it in the Premier League, the Champions League and, of course, both the cups as well. We are in October and we know it will be very tight. It will be how resilient, consistent, intelligent and united we are until the end.
"There will be periods when it will be difficult but we have to show our strengths that has always made this club special. I believe we have developed the team in the last four or five years with a tremendous amount of training to develop them how we want."
As for the answers on the club's future ownership, the shareholders were left none the wiser. The club's chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, gave a personal endorsement of Kroenke, the man who his infamously snobby remark "we don't want his sort" was aimed at two years ago.
However, Hill-Wood said there was nothing he could do to shed any light on the strategy behind Kroenke's accumulation of shares, saying: "I believe he is happy to be a long-term shareholder in our club. Really, it's not for me to say what his intentions are. It is not something I can discuss publicly or even privately. We have the Takeover Panel breathing down our necks and I have to be very careful with what I say."
With the board still united against Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek billionaire who has just over 25 per cent of the shares in Arsenal, Wenger reiterated his belief that they had no need of a major benefactor, regardless of the threat from Manchester City to the established big four. "It's not just about pumping money into the team," he said. "There is a magic in our sport and our club.
"You have to identify where football goes today. The Premier League is the most attractive league in the world. What is happening is that many investors from all over the world come in with investment. That is one trend. The second is that from the European Union want to control exactly the money that comes in and get unlimited spending out of the game. I believe the second will happen and we are in line with that. So to keep the club strong, that is personally essential.
"We must maintain our values in the club. When I travel to Derby or Coventry, there was always respect and admiration in their stadiums at the Arsenal way of doing things.
"It is important that we are proud of the way we play the game and develop players. You cannot be a big club and have a small culture. You have to have a desire to see quality in what you do."Reuse content